Tanzania’s bustling northern safari capital of Arusha boasts that it is producing its own green public oasis at Themi Living Garden, thanks to the City Council and Oikos East Africa for partnering in the project.
Oikos East Africa is an Arusha-based non-governmental organization promoting the protection of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources as tools for fighting against poverty.
Speaking during the World Environmental Day celebrations yesterday, Silvia Ceppi, the Scientific Advisor with Oikos East Africa, said the project was evidence that good governance paid off.
“What we enjoy today at the Themi Living Garden is the efforts of a tireless team of women who turned a highly degraded and insecure patch of urban forest into a safe, green public oasis,” she said.
Ceppi said the joint project aimed at increasing awareness and mitigating the effects of climate change both in urban and rural ecosystems through improved ecosystem management, women engagement in green enterprises, and piloting innovative technologies.
The garden, furnished with a restaurant for catering organic foods, promotes and develops knowledge and offers a green and safe public space in a natural setting which functions like a lung for the bustling Arusha Central Business District.
“If we protect our surrounding environment, it will, in turn, protect us. And with hard work and commitment, even extremely degraded environments will recover,” Mr. Sigfrid Mbuya, the City Council Environmental official, said.
Mr. Mbuya said Tanzania hosts the largest populations of plants and animal species on Earth, and many Tanzanians take them for granted, as they are not aware of the link to their day-to-day lives.
He said plans were underway for the City Council to transform the living garden, which attracts bats, pythons, and other creatures, into a tourist attraction.
The city authorities and Oikos joined about 300 pupils in celebrating World Environmental Day by planting trees at the living garden, along with Arusha District Commissioner, Gabriel Daqarro, who was represented by Baltazari Ngowi, the City’s Human Resource Officer.
“We’ve to pay back to nature by replanting trees which provide nutritious food, medicines, timber, and shade; hold the soil during heavy rains; wildlife [that] can use[d] for food and shelter; break[ing] strong winds; and trees that will survive us,” she explained.
She said given the dramatic effects of climate change on the livelihood of people, who entirely depend on ecosystem services, children, who constituted about 50 percent of the Tanzania’s population, should be the voice and the target of the celebration.
A child who plants a tree will remember it forever and teach his/her children the importance of this simple gesture, Ms. Ceppi explained, adding, “This is how we care for nature.”
The Arusha Municipal Council and Oikos, an environmental conservation organization active in Tanzania since 1996, are holding hands to increase their impact on environmental protection.
A collaborative agreement started in 2013 produced the first women-led multifunctional edible garden in Tanzania, located in the heart of Arusha.
The Themi Living Garden promotes and develops knowledge and practice of the sustainable auto-production of food, and offers a green, safe public space in a natural environment that functions like a lung for the bustling city center.
“If we protect our surrounding environment, it will protect us,” said Mr. Mbuya from the Arusha Municipality Council, “and with hard work and commitment even extremely-degraded environments will recover.”
“What we enjoy today at the Themi Living Garden, with its lush forest and streams, is the product of good governance and of the efforts of a tireless team of 9 women who turned a highly-degraded and insecure patch of urban forest into a safe, green public oasis,” he noted.
Thanks to the financial and technical support of the European Union-funded Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA Tanzania) and the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation, Oikos will work shoulder to shoulder with the Arusha Municipal Council, the Arusha and Meru District Councils, the Nelson Mandela University, the Milan Municipal Council (Italy), and a consortium of Italian private partners, until 2020, according to Oikos Country Director, Giorgio Colombo.
The scope of the partnership within the ECOBOMA-TERRA project is to increase awareness and mitigate the effects of climate change both in urban and rural ecosystems through improved ecosystem management, water reservoirs restoration, reforestation and graze land conservation, women engagement in green enterprises such as leather vegetable tanning, and finally through piloting adaptation technologies such as innovative biogas plants for dry areas and climate smart agriculture.
PHOTO: One of OIKOS’ officials with a local pupil planting a tree.